Teaching English by accident: The art of travel improvisation

The adventure is never over

"Namaste class..."

"This is Mr. George. He will teach you many things, about many kinds of things...and he will make you laugh."

My mouth goes dry as my palms begin to sweat. I try to suppress my shocked expression - in front of the classroom full of 9-year-olds - as the Headmaster hands me a piece of chalk, steps aside, and lays his eyes upon me expectantly. It's at this point in the story that I should tell you that I am not a teacher. I have never taught a class before, and hadn't planned on starting now. Nevertheless, I turned to the class, took a deep breath, and let out a feeble, "Namaste…"

The adventure was over.

A month of safaris, paragliding, getting lost too many times to remember, hiking the Himalaya, dodging bedbugs, making new friends, leaving old ones...I had spent over a month in Nepal and had done what I came there to do. Now I was back in Balaju, a quiet suburb (on the verge of rural) outside of downtown Kathmandu. I was with a family I had stayed with previously and had a week before leaving for the States. I had been planning to head back to Thamel - the downtown commercial tourist trap cesspool - that now carried an odd familiar warmth, the same way that Times Square does for locals who have been away from New York City for a long time. I was looking forward to spurning the tiger balm salesmen and hanging out at the tourist joints, people watching, and gathering some overpriced souvenirs. The adventure was over, I told myself.

That morning, as I sipped my minty coffee (that adjective is not an accident), my host - let's call him Gary for the sake of identity protection - Gary asked me if I would like to teach at a school nearby. It should be noted that although Gary's English was very good, every so often, idiomatic phrases would fall through the cracks and I assumed this was the case here. I am not a teacher. I like to think that I give instruction reasonably well, and my friends might accuse me of being pedantic on occasion (especially when using words like "pedantic"). But it must be distinctly understood that I have never been formally trained as an educator nor had I declared any such ability to my host.

Consequently, I assumed that "teaching" meant "tour a Nepalese school" or at the most "show and tell your American". Students would ask a few questions: Where are you from? What is it like there? Bada-bing bada-boom, time to skedaddle. Content in this blissful ignorance, I accepted the teaching contract. After breakfast, Gary's father walked me through the dusty streets and delivered me to a school teacher on her way to school, the way an apple is presented to a devoted educator. The suburban enclave in Balaju rustled gently in the morning sun as we arrived at the black iron gates of the school.

I was hurriedly introduced to the headmaster. A man of 50 some odd years, blessed with a rich olive complexion, and dressed in a grey suit. He told me to sit on the porch as class would begin shortly. As I watched the children play football (the true world religion, don't let anyone tell you otherwise) in the shadow of the 3 story concrete schoolhouse, I thought optimistically that perhaps I'd simply be observing. Boy was I wrong.

"Namaste class."

"Namaste." the children answer.

"Good morning." I say, redundantly.

"Good morning." they parrot, already a bit wary of this strange substitute standing before them.

I take a look at the Headmaster - who, at least in my imagination, appears to be smiling maniacally - and I decide it's time to jump in. With a flurry of chalk dust and overstated enthusiasm I write on the board while saying aloud:

"My...name...is...Mr. George."

"I...am...from...New York City."

"I...work...at...a...Chinese food restaurant."

"I...play...music."

I spin around with a chipper, "Any questions?"

Silence.

At this point, I can feel my mouth move but I'm not sure what I'm saying. The 9-year-old faces grow long and weary until suddenly I blurt out, "Who wants to hear a song?". The class nods in relative excitement and I dive into the deep end. I begin with a little beatbox. Some tapping on the desks. I throw some melody out ("8 Days A Week", Lennon/McCartney your check is in the mail). I'm in. The class is smiling and clapping and bopping around. I look over and notice the Headmaster is gone.

I sing a few more songs while trying to come up with my next trick. Scouring my brain for some rabbit to pull out of my metaphorical hat, I reach deep down, and pull out the first thing that comes out.

"Today we're going to learn haikus," I say. "Who knows what a poem is?"

All hands up.

"Who knows what a syllable is?"

All hands down. Minor setback. No matter, we'll substitute words for syllables. 5 words. 7 words. 5 words. Following a brief history lesson, ("haikus are poems invented somewhere in Japan at some point in history…") I write on the board:

Tea is good for me

I like to drink tea and milk

Tea I like the most

Give me a break, I'm under pressure. Confident in my newfound pedagogical abilities I ask the class to take out a sheet of paper and draw spaces for each word. We fill them out, Mad Lib-style, and present them to the rest of the class. I sit back, beaming like a proud parent.

At this point, the Headmaster suddenly reappears and relieves me of my duties with a real teacher. I bid the students farewell and let out a sigh. Not a bad curriculum really. Intros, songs, haikus. I could do this all day, I think proudly.

"Ready for a bigger class?" asks the Headmaster. The chalk slips from my grasp, as my mouth goes dry, and my legs quiver once more.

Oh dear.

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Food & Drink

6 NYC Food Trends You Can Try at Home

From Raindrop Cakes to Ramen Burgers, these New York City food crazes are available in your kitchen.

Back when a world outside your home and the grocery store existed, New York City had a habit of getting swept up in food crazes.

Sometimes those crazes have involved a burgeoning appreciation for an established cultural tradition from around the world -- arepas, poké bowls, Korean barbecue. At other times these crazes have just involved particular purveyors taking a familiar item more seriously -- like the doughnut renaissance spurred by Doughnut Plant and Dough.

But the most alluring and often ridiculous food trends in New York City tend to involve something truly novel, eye-catching, and sometimes just weird. Fortunately, for those of us who are taking pandemic conditions seriously, there are options to bring some of the novelty of those trends home for the Instagrammable weirdness you may have been missing.

These are some of the recent New York City food trends that you can try for yourself.

Raindrop Cake

raindrop cake

Like a lot of food trends that sweep New York, the Raindrop Cake can be traced back to Japan. Created by the Kinseiken Seika company outside Tokyo, the clear, jiggly cake was originally introduced as water mochi. In 2016 a Brooklyn-based digital marketer named Darren Wong set out to introduce the strange "edible water" to New York at the Smorgasburg food festival, and the strangely beautiful dessert took off.

Now Wong sells kits with everything you need to create your own low-calorie jellyfish/breast implant confection at home. For $36 the kit includes ingredients, molds, and bamboo trays for six raindrop cakes served with brown sugar syrup and Japanese Kinako flour.

Cronuts

cronuts

Dominique Ansel Bakery

When French pastry chef Dominique Ansel introduced New York to his chimera dessert blending a croissant with a doughnut, it was an overnight sensation with lines around the block to try the flaky fried goodness. They were such a hit that a more pedestrian version of the cronut made its way to Dunkin around the country.

Since then, Ansel has unveiled a number of buzzworthy and inventive creations, like What-a-Melon ice cream, Zero-Gravity cakes, and frozen s'mores. But if you want to try the sensation that started it all, Ansel has shared his original cronut recipe.

And if it turns out that you're not quite at the level to emulate a world-renowned French pastry chef, you can always try the knock-off version with these simple biscuit dough donuts you can make in an air fryer.

Ramen Burger

ramen burger

Here's another food craze imported from Japan. The ramen burger has popular in the Fukushima region for some time, but it was first introduced to New York by chef Keizo Shimamoto's restaurant Ramen Shack in 2013.

The simple fusion of Japanese and American cuisine is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a standard white bread bun, ramen noodles are cooked to chewy perfection, pressed into a bun shape, then seared in sesame oil until the outside is crispy.

Inside that bun you can place whatever kind of burger you like, but Shimamoto's version involved a beef patty served with arugula, scallions, and a signature sauce. While your results with instant ramen are unlikely to match the quality of Shimamoto's buns, this recipe should help you get close.

Ube Ice Cream

Ube ice cream

Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking

The purple yam known as ube is a staple of Filipino desserts. In recent years its distinctive, almost floral sweetness has grown in popularity in NYC, showing up in a variety of baked goods and in the Philippines's signature take on shaved ice -- halo-halo.

The fluffy ube mamons -- sponge cakes -- at Red Ribbon Bakeshop are a great introduction to what has made it such a popular ingredient. There is also the delicious flan-like ube halaya. But maybe the most craveable and craze-worthy uses of ube is as a flavor of ice cream.

This simple recipe calls for ube extract or powder, rather than using actual yam -- but the distinctive ube flavor still comes through in the delicious results.

Grasshoppers

Tempura grasshoppers

Food Republic

Speaking of climate change... oh, were we not talking about climate change? It's always just lingering in the background -- a portent of doom hovering over all our thoughts about the future? Cool.

Anyway, speaking of climate change, one of the most important changes our society will need to make in order to mitigate its catastrophic effects it to shift our food supply to a more sustainable model. And one of the keys to that effort will be a shift away from meat to less wasteful protein sources.

Plant-based alternatives like impossible burgers and beyond meats are a likely component of that shift, but one of the most efficient forms of protein on Earth is also one of the easiest to come by -- bugs. With that in mind, restaurants like The Black Ant have introduced insects as a fashionable part of NYC dining.

You might be thinking that's gross, but in reality...it absolutely is. Bugs are weird and gross, and the idea of eating them is not appetizing.

But chances are there's already something in your diet that would be gross if you weren't used to it -- aren't lobsters basically sea bugs anyway? So if you can find a way to get over that mental block and make those bugs appealing -- as cultures around the world have been doing throughout history -- you might be ready for the Snowpiercer dystopia that lies ahead.

With that in mind, you can buy a bucket of crunchy dried grasshoppers to start experimenting with cooking. And, while not as inventive as Black Ant's grasshopper-crusted shrimp tacos, these recipes for curried tempura grasshoppers and Oaxacan chapulines tacos sound downright edible.

Hot Cocktails

hot toddy

Okay, this is hardly a new or a specifically New York trend, but with restaurants and bars moving outdoors in the middle of winter, people have been warming themselves with hot beverages. But there's nothing to stop you from bringing that heat home to enjoy a tipsy winter night on a balcony, rooftop, or fire escape.

From hot toddies to hot buttered rum, spiked hot chocolate, and mulled wine, the possibilities are endless. A hot cocktail can be as simple as Irishing-up a cup of coffee, but we recommend getting your hands on some citrus peel and mulling spices -- cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice, stare anise, and nutmeg -- and start experimenting with some cheap red wine or apple cider spiked with your favorite brown liquor.

Travel Tips

Best Jobs for People Who Love To Travel

If you want to travel but have a job that is currently holding you back, here are a few of our suggestions for the best jobs for people who love to travel.

For many people, traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling is not always feasible because of responsibilities to work.

One way to get around this roadblock is to get a job that will let you travel and see the world. Here are some of the best jobs for people who love to travel.

Hostelworld HostelworldHostelworld.com

Translator

A translator is a wonderful job for those who want to travel. It will bring you to many places as you work, so long as those places speak the language you can translate. The great thing about translating is the variety of work you can get by translating for specific clients or just translating for tourists in the area. You can choose what type of scene you wish to work in very easily.

Pilot

A pilot fits the definition of a job that gets to travel perfectly. Now, whether you are a private pilot or a commercial pilot, you will still get to fly all over the planet. The only major problem with this job is the requirement of flight classes. But once you get your license, you can fly freely around the world while making yourself money to fund your trips.

Travel blogger

Being a travel blogger is a temperamental job but, if done correctly, it will allow you to visit anywhere you want. Writing to fans as you travel the world can be a fun and exciting way to engage with the planet. This job can be difficult to do, though, as you must be able to write consistently and capture your audience with each post.

English teacher

This may not sound like a job that allows you to travel, but schools all around the world are always looking for more people to teach English.

In this career, you would move near the school that you would teach at and live there over the course of your time there. The interesting thing about this job is that it does not necessarily require a teaching degree, depending on the school and country in question. You also get to live in a new country for an extended period.

When it comes to the best jobs for people who love to travel, these are just a few of our suggestions. There are plenty of jobs where you can travel around the world, but these ones are far-reaching and cover a lot of different lifestyles. They might seem like pipe dreams, but hey, you never know!

Seattle, Washington is a rainy, coffee-fueled, coastal town often referred to as the "Emerald City."

Located against the ecological wonderland of Puget Sound, this cosmopolitan, seaside city is a mishmash of arts, culture, history, nature, and, of course, cloudy weather. Thanks to its proximity to nature, its greenery, and its culturally rich, big-city atmosphere, the city is becoming increasingly popular, both for tourists and those looking for a change of scenery.

The Big Stops: Tourist Seattle

If you only have a few days to visit Seattle, you'll probably want to check out the area's most famous attractions.

For nature lovers and summit-chasers, there's the imposing, wildflower-shrouded Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainierthebesttravelplaces.com

Mt. Rainier

For foodies, there's the popular Pike Place Market, a giant patchwork of food-sellers and friendly chaos where you can purchase everything from giant crabs' legs to bottomless amounts of coffee (more on that later).

Pike Place Marketseattle.eater.com

And finally, there's the iconic Space Needle and the Sky View Observatory, which will give you extraordinary views of the city.

Space Needlegetyourguide.com

Seattle Arts and Museums

For arts and culture lovers, Seattle has plenty to cut your teeth on. Don't miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a collection of extraordinary blown-glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly Gardensfodors.com

Chihuly Gardens

For art, there's the giant Seattle Art Museum Downtown. Seattle also offers the Museum of Pop Culture, a nonprofit that features all your favorite icons from history, and plenty of other options.

Museum of Pop Culturesmithsonianmag.org

For some history, there's the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which commemorates Seattle's history as a gold rush hub.

There are plenty of quirky attractions—like the giant Fremont Troll, the 18-foot sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood that cuts an imposing figure.

Fremont Trollsillyamerica.com

You could also take in the city from a boat—marine enthusiasts might enjoy visiting to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to explore the history of this port city.

Seattle, of course, also has a gritty underground side—you may know the city from its time at the heart of the '90s grunge movement.

It also has a long, storied history that has left more than a few scars. You can literally see its underground through one of its underground tours, which will take you on a walk through the "buried city," the remnants left over from before the Great Fire of 1889.

Seattle Undergroundpinterest

Natural Wonders

Seattle is notorious for its natural wonders. For a close-up view, there's the Seattle Aquarium, a marine experience that showcases the best of what Puget Sound has to offer.

For more exposure to the beauty of Seattle's nature, try the Washington Park Arboretum, a 230-acre showcase of Seattle's wetlands and natural wonders.

Washington Park Arboretumtriposo.com

You might also pay a visit to the Alki Beach for some time with the ocean waves.

Alki BeachMetropolitangardens.blogspot.com

Or consider taking a more exhaustive adventure to Discovery Park, a giant and labyrinthine natural park at the edge of Puget Sound.

Discovery Parktrip savvy.com

Food and Drink

Food tours are also popular options for those who want to get more intimate with the city's cuisine, and Seattle is often ranked as one of the best cities for foodies.

It's also a great place for coffee-heads. You might also pay a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, AKA Ultimate Starbucks, a tasting room that features a coffee library amongst other treats for coffee addicts.

Sarbucks Reserve Roasterydesigner.com

Moving to Seattle

If you're planning on moving to Seattle, locals say there's a few things you should know. First off, it is most definitely overcast the majority of the time, though the rain is rather like a mist. That makes the rare sunny day shine even more, though, locals say, in addition to fostering natural abundance.

The city is generally very congested with traffic, which can be noisy, though it offers great public transportation options, from buses to rail—regardless, you'll want to get an Orca Card for that.

Like every city, Seattle has a number of diverse and charismatic neighborhoods. For example, there's the beachy, more laid-back West Seattle.

West SeattleWest Seattle

There's the vibrant Capitol Hill, a hub of arts, culture, tech bros, and nightlife (during non-COVID times).

There's the historic and artsy Pioneer Square, featuring plenty of museums, shops, galleries, and pubs.

Pioneer Square SeattleExpedia

Fremont is a more bohemian area. Belltown is a trendy waterfront neighborhood that's close to everything.

In general, Seattle residents love the city for its proximity to nature, from beaches to glaciers, and its abundance of arts and cultural attractions. As Kimberly Kinrade said, "Seattle is for people who love culture, but refuse to sacrifice their wild nature to attain it." Residents dislike the steep cost of housing and all things that come from rising prices, including the city's large homeless population.

In general, the city is known as environmentally conscious, liberal, and dog-loving. The people are often referred to as nice but possibly a bit standoffish and cold (the "Seattle Freeze" is when you make plans to hang out and then bail, which is apparently very common). The rain can certainly get depressing, but the proximity to nature helps.

Remember, if you do happen to move: umbrellas are dead giveaways for tourists.


What's your favorite part about Seattle? What did we leave out? Let us know at @thejourniest on Twitter!